There are several things to consider here, and every organization will be different, but we would caution against bringing people back into the office quite yet. While things do seem like they’re getting better, it might not be time to return to how things we pre-COVID.
Here are three big reasons why you should keep your remote work options open for now.
This can be an opportunity for growth and change.
Change is uncomfortable and oftentimes difficult. When a global pandemic forces your organization to work outside its comfort zone, you’re bound to face challenges you’ve never had to deal with before.
However, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Since you’re already forced to change, why not examine that change and see what opportunities you can glean from it?
You’ve probably had to restructure your workplace in order to accommodate remote work. Instead of just going back to how things were before, you should ask yourself some big questions. Is this new way of doing business better? What opportunities can we build on top of this new structure or new technology? Are there things we can do better with a remote team than we could with an on-campus one? Can we save money by downsizing our office space?
There are dozens – and probably hundreds – of different ways you can use the modern workplace to your advantage. Since you were already forced to change, you should definitely be taking advantage of this instead of letting it impact you negatively.
Many people would rather quit their job than return to the office.
Bloomberg published an article recently called “Employees Are Quitting Instead of Giving Up Working From Home.” This article points out:
If anything, the past year has proved that lots of work can be done from anywhere, sans lengthy commutes on crowded trains or highways. Some people have moved. Others have lingering worries about the virus and vaccine-hesitant colleagues.
All of these are good points, and they should be taken very seriously. And Bloomberg is hardly the only news outlet to notice this. Newsweek published a similar article in April, and USA Today published one way back in January. The consensus is in: A lot of people would quit their job before going back to the office.
The past year has been a breaking point for a lot of people. Many who were loyal and career-focused before the pandemic are questioning that loyalty and that focus now. People who wouldn’t have been willing to quit their job at the drop of a hat in 2019 have decided in 2021 that they’d probably be open to that now.
And this creates a problem for employers. If you push your staff to come back to an in-person environment before they’re ready, you need to prepare to lose some of your most essential team members. And because there’s a hiring shortage, those people will likely end up somewhere that pays them better and gives them better benefits. That’s great for them, but now you’re left trying to cover essential positions when job seekers are at a massive advantage.
We’ve said this before, but the balance of power has shifted from employers to employees. As an employer, you no longer have the leverage you once did, and refilling open positions is going to be more expensive and time-consuming than ever before.
Before bringing your workers back to the office, you’re going to have to ask yourself how many of your employees you’re willing to replace if they end up walking out on you.
Virus variants could force additional lockdowns.
Now, this is an absolute nightmare scenario, so we don’t want to have to bring it up at all. However, it’s extremely important to plan for, so it’s worth mentioning here.
Virus variants are a great cause for concern. If they get out of hand, we could be looking at more lockdowns and quarantines in the future. This is not something to shrug off, and there are at least three potential problems this could create for you.
First, your employees might hesitate to come back to work because they don’t feel safe when there are new variants at play. Those people might prefer to find a new remote job than to tough it out in an office, as we mentioned in our previous point.
Second, bringing people back to the office, only to have them retreat back to remote work after a couple months, is going to cost you a lot of money, resources, and planning time. You can save yourself the logistical headache by keeping things the way they are right now instead of forcing your employees back into the office.
Third, you could be creating a potentially dangerous situation for your employees. If your office space gets branded as a pandemic-spreader, you’re going to lose team members, you could end up facing legal challenges, and your reputation will take a massive hit.
Don’t be reckless. You’ve already adapted to a remote work environment, and that’s been working for more than a year now. Shifting gears back to how things were before is a great temptation, but the time just isn’t right for it. We’re still weathering a storm, and it’s way too early to pretend all of this is over.
For the safety of your workers and for the strength of your organization, we advise keeping your remote options open, at least for the time being.